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A trying 12 months for Europe has proved a painful eye-opener for many nations, but with lessons learnt, 2011 promises to be better for all.

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Spencer Green
Chairman, GDS International

Sales and the 'Talent Magnet'

A lot is written about being a ‘Talent Magnet’, either as a company, or as President. It’s all good practice – listen, mentor, reward, provide clear goals and career maps. Good practice for the employer, but what about the employee?
25 May 2011

Empathy and alignment in business

05 May 2011

If you're in sales, the chances are you know the alligator example: all mouth and tiny ears. Great sales people are the opposite. But when you do talk to a potential client, how do you have the biggest impact? I have one golden rule: sit next to them...

I was reminded of the alligator story in this excellent sales video from GDS International's executive learning website, MeetTheBoss TV . Bob Hoey tells it. His LinkedIn profile says:

"Bob is GM, IBM Global Technology Services, for General Business selling outsourcing, information technology, maintenance and managed business process services to general business accounts around the world. He moved into this job in May 2010 after successfully leading IBM's sales in Systems & Technology Group since 2003."

My guess: Bob knows what he's talking about.

Listening more than you talk is always good advice, but you do have to talk - and that's where a lot of sales people go wrong. I use my experiences here, and those of my wife and friends. We don't like obvious sales questions; we don't like to be the first, second or 32nd person to get the same pitch that day. You're probably the same way.

I have one golden rule: don't sit across the table from your prospective clients; sit next to them. I don't mean physically. I mean don't talk at them, but build a rapport. The best sales people always work alongside their clients.

What does this mean in real life? It means asking intelligent questions instead of obvious, ‘trained' questions. For example: you want to buy a car. The sales person asks you what you do for a living. Why? It's a trained opening question that leads from page one of the pitch to page two, and we all - as clients - know it. Say hello. Comment on what they have been looking at. Talk about the weather. Listen to the answers and build a rapport: the opening will come naturally.

It's the same for telephone sales. Don't be obvious - people are happy to buy, but they don't like to be sold.

Don't use aggressive business acronyms or phrases too early (things like ROI, decision maker, budget holder), or your potential client will have his guard up quicker than Ali when he gave Foreman the rope-a-dope.

The goal is to build rapport in your opening so the client lowers their guard and listens (and you sell. Lots).

This is the simple truth: whether your potential client puts his or her guard up or guard down is due to the rapport you build in the opening! As Ali illustrated, when his guard is up, it's very difficult to get him to lower it. And it don't matter how hard you batter.

This is the greatest challenge in sales. You have to be intelligent and understand that, while you are involved in a directed conversation, it is still a conversation.

Do your research. Know their needs. Align yourself with those needs, sit beside them, build intelligent rapport and empathy, and then move the call forward.

When a potential client is comfortable that your agenda and their agenda are aligned - that both parties will benefit - then discuss your product. And if your agendas are aligned, and both parties will benefit, then any client who hasn't got their guard up will really like.

This is intelligent selling. It may seem easier to control your agenda sat opposite the client, and it is more difficult to have control when you're sat alongside them, but that control is real, because it's mutually beneficial, which makes it a lot more powerful.

Does it work in real life? My company, GDS International, has grown 78 per cent in the last two years. It took us a while to learn these lessons, but that's why we still tell the alligator story.

To read more about Spencer Green and GDS, find his bio here.

Alternatively, read Spencer Green's GDS blog here.